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Get Started — Reading (and Understanding) Your Assignment

A Guide to Starting Your Research Project

What is Research?

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing - Wernher Von Braun

Research "depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions." It's a chance for you to explore something that is important and relevant to you. You have the opportunity to add your voice and your understanding to the conversation about your research project.

Your instructor is not asking you to find one source that perfectly answers your question - instead, it is up to you to draw connections between your sources and your research project.

Research takes time

  • Read your assignment right away so you know what the requirements are.
  • Plan your time. The assignment calculator will help you. You'll feel better once you have a plan for your project, and it will help you stay on track and manage your time. 
  • Background research will help you come up with a focused topic for your project. Make sure you give yourself enough to do background research!
  • Keep in mind - all research takes time! You're creatively working through the ideas of others. Give yourself more time than you think you need - worst case scenario you'll finish ahead of schedule.

Reading the Assignment

Make sure you read the whole assignment - no one wants to get their grade knocked down just because they didn't take the time to read all the requirements. The fine details are important!

If you're not sure about what you're being asked to do, ask your instructor - it's better to clear up any misconceptions before you start on your project.

You may find it useful to start taking notes while you're reading through your assignment - jot down what you're thinking and questions you have - to help get your thinking started on your assignment.

Some questions from the The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to help you get started:

  • Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas?
  • What kind of writing style is acceptable?
  • What are the absolute rules of the paper?

Important parts of your assignment:

  • Kind of sources required - Scholarly? Popular?
  • How many sources are required?
  • The required style for citation
  • Requirements- page number, word count
  • Deadline
  • The Verbs - this is what your instructor is asking you to accomplish